FPL Family’s Sam picks out the low-owned assets who could prove to be sage investments heading into the festive season.
With a quarter of the Premier League season gone already, we are starting to see increasing use of the much-loathed E-word (‘essential’) in the FPL community.
Fantasy managers are starting to know who the premium assets that they want to hold long term are and that list of names seems to get longer (and more expensive!) with every passing week.
Harry Kane (£11.0m), Son Heung-min (£9.5m), Bruno Fernandes (£10.8m), Mohamed Salah (12.2m), Ben Chilwell (£6.1m), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£7.9m) all sit in the top ten for FPL ownership, closely followed by the likes of Jamie Vardy (£10.2m), Timo Werner (£9.5m), Hakim Ziyech (£8.3m) Andy Robertson (£7.1m) and Kevin De Bruyne (£11.6m).
To own a combination of four of these players will cost FPL managers between £29.3m and £44.2m.
When you take into account the ownership of these premium assets, they will help to protect your rank but do very little in the way of improving it unless they are wearing the captain’s armband.
At pushing half of your FPL budget to own Salah, Kane, Fernandes and De Bruyne, we need to make cheaper differential assets work for us in order to ensure that we are gaining ground.
At the start of the FPL season, choosing the right differentials can be a minefield because of the lack of ‘form’. We therefore look for cut-price assets who are likely to start every week in teams that are strong bets to return goals and/or clean sheets and have a decent run of fixtures.
It is an astute (and very lucky!) FPL manager who manages to get all of these differential picks correct before the opening Gameweek of the season. Even if you managed to start the campaign with a well-picked set of differentials, post-Gameweek 9 might be the right time to re-look at whether these players are still the ones offering the best value for money.
Differentials (anyone owned by under 10% of the game, for the purposes of this piece) can be the players who will make the biggest change to overall rank and mini-league positioning, especially the longer the season goes on and when a ‘template’ begins to form. They are the ones who often are the difference between a green and a red arrow by the end of the Gameweek.
We are now in the position of having nine Premier League matches under our belts as well as multiple Champions League, Europa League and League Cup games. This wealth of knowledge now gives us more to go on when picking out our differentials – so who look to be the best options between now and Christmas?
Above: Season Ticker sorted by difficulty between Gameweek 10 and Gameweek 14, which is the final Gameweek before Christmas
I’ve spent most of this season saying that looking at the fixtures is less important than the form of the players. This is definitely true when we assess players like Son, Kane, Vardy, Calvert-Lewin etc who have returned points against difficult opposition and show no signs of that form ending regardless of who they are playing.
However, for the differentials, the fixtures are an important consideration. These players are key for rank rises and as such you want to give yourself the best opportunity possible for them to return. With differential picks, then, a combination of form and fixtures is key.
Newcastle United sit pretty at the top of the ticker but with three losses in the last five Gameweeks and a lack of clean sheets (none since Gameweek 1) and goals (four in the last five Gameweeks), they aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders. With the exception of Callum Wilson (£6.5m) and Allan Saint-Maximin (£5.3m), none of their assets are owned by more than 2.7% of the game – but there doesn’t look to be much upside in plumping for a Magpie or two.
Wilson is ranked ninth for total points scored so far this season (although three of his six goals have come from penalties) but we don’t see another Newcastle player until Karl Darlow (£5.0m) in 48th spot. Even then, when you compare Darlow to the other goalkeepers in the game, he ranks at 10th and thus there are definitely better options. Hence why for differentials, a combination of form and fixtures is vital.
There isn’t often a time where you can talk about Manchester City in an article on differentials. They sit nicely on the Season Ticker and have a delightful run of fixtures which should result in big points hauls for their assets.
Their form has been challenging this season, with defeats to Leicester and Spurs, draws with Liverpool, Leeds and West Ham, as well as unconvincing 1-0 wins against Arsenal and Sheffield United. They haven’t been setting the world on fire – both in attack or in defence.
However, there is no denying that City are a quality football team and with the return from injury of key players such as Raheem Sterling (£11.5m) and Sergio Aguero (£10.3m), surely an upturn in performances, results and goals is long overdue.
When the fixtures for the 2020/21 season were announced, we as FPL managers were quick to spot the nice start to the season that Spurs had and the horrible-looking swing ahead of Gameweek 9.
Kane and Son have been the go-to players at Spurs for Fantasy bosses but if you are prepared to follow the path of logic that suggests that their form continues through these challenging fixtures, then their other assets could prove to be value differentials.
The likes of Gareth Bale (£9.5m), Lucas Moura (£6.8m) and Sergio Reguilon (£5.6m) have the potential to return good FPL points this season, although there is perhaps too much rotation risk at present with the first two.
Likewise, Chelsea have a mixed batch of fixtures between now and the festive season. Again, the Blues’ form suggests that choosing a Chelsea differential could be a very wise investment.
Whilst many of the Chelsea players fall outside of the differentials remit – the likes of Werner, Kurt Zouma (£5.4m) and Ziyech, for example – there are options that could allow you to benefit from Chelsea’s form without the expense.
Both Mason Mount (£6.8m) and Edouard Mendy (£5.1m) look like great options. Owning Mendy allows you to save £0.3m versus owning Zouma and a whole million versus owning Chilwell. Granted, there is no attacking upside from Mendy but he has returned four clean sheets in his five Premier League games so far and banked a save point in the Gameweek 6 match against Manchester United.
Best differential options for Gameweeks 10-14
Aston Villa have been one of the surprise packages of the season so far. Whilst their talisman Jack Grealish (£7.5m) is owned by 40.8% of the game and Tyrone Mings (£5.3m) and Emiliano Martinez (£4.8m) come in at 13.3% and 27.5% respectively, the rest of the Aston Villa squad still classify as differentials. Ollie Watkins (£6.1m), John McGinn (£5.5m), Ezri Konsa (£4.7m), Matt Targett (£4.5m) and Matthew Cash (£5.0m) all look to offer both good value for money in their positions and carry excellent potential for points per million spent.
Watkins has returned in two of Aston Vila’s last three fixtures as well as registering two double-digit hauls in the opening eight Gameweeks.
Defensively, Aston Villa have four clean sheets so far this season – that’s half of the games that they have played – and both Konsa and Targett have registered attacking returns, so there is good potential upside on their defensive picks, too. With games to come against West Ham, Newcastle, Wolves, Burnley and West Brom, there is plenty of potential upside to the differential picks at Aston Villa both in terms of the defenders as well as in attack.
Its been a difficult couple of weeks at Liverpool with injuries to key players as well as positive coronavirus tests. However, the injury to Trent Alexander-Arnold (£7.3m) opens up the possibility of a differential Liverpool defender.
At under £4.0m, Neco Williams (£3.9m) is one of the cheapest assets in the game and usually would be bench fodder at best as he sits behind Alexander-Arnold in the right-back pecking order. However, with Klopp suggesting that Liverpool might have to manage without Alexander-Arnold for a little longer than originally planned, Williams could offer a lovely alternative for this period up until Christmas.
Many FPL managers, myself included, feared that without Virgil Van Dijk (£6.3m) and Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool would concede goals. But the return of Joel Matip (£5.4m) and Fabinho (£5.4m) saw big improvements in Liverpool’s defensive display against Leicester in Gameweek 9. With a Gameweek 10 match against Brighton, who have struggled for goals of late, followed by matches against Wolves and Fulham, Liverpool could register a few more clean sheets in the next few weeks.
- Sergio Aguero (£10.3m) – 1.2% owned
- Raheem Sterling (£11.5m) – 4.6% owned
- Gabriel Jesus (£9.3m) – 1.2% owned
- Kyle Walker (£6.1m) – 8.7% owned
- Aymeric Laporte (£6.0m) – 2.9% owned
- Joao Cancelo (£5.5m) – 3.1% owned
- Ruben Dias (£5.5m) – 2.0% owned
These are the kinds of ownership percentages that we rarely see for Manchester City assets. The likes of Sterling and Aguero seldom class as differentials and as such, there has never been a better time to invest in terms of the potential upside that they may yield. Whilst they do not offer the same bargain-basement price tag than some of the other differentials discussed do, they could be worth the investment if you can make the budget work.
With games against Burnley, Fulham, Manchester United, West Brom and Southampton this side of Christmas, City assets should be guaranteed points. However, the attacking players have not been as prolific as they normally are and in order to own them, it probably means shipping the likes of Salah, Kane, Son or Fernandes.
Owning one of Cancelo or Dias feels like a cheap way into Man City for the clean sheets that we expect them to keep – and if you plump for Cancelo, the potential for attacking returns, too.
Much like the City assets, United’s Harry Maguire (£5.4m) isn’t a budget-helpful differential. There is nevertheless the potential for some decent returns from the Red Devils’ captain over the next few weeks. Maguire has registered two clean sheets in his seven Premier League games this season, as well as one goal, one assist and a bonus point.
With clubs that like to attack in Southampton, West Ham and Man City up next, perhaps Gameweek 13 would be the time to properly consider United’s defensive assets.
- Michail Antonio (£6.2m) – owned by 2.1%
- Pablo Fornals (£6.5m) – owned by 2.1%
- Jarrod Bowen (£6.3m) – owned by 2.2%
- Aaron Cresswell (£5.1m) – owned by 9.4%
- Tomas Soucek (£4.9m) – owned by 3.1%
- Vladimir Coufal (£4.6m) – owned by 2.1%
- Arthur Masuaku (£4.5m) – owned by 2.0%
- Lukasz Fabianski (£5.0m) – owned by 3.1%
West Ham, much like Aston Villa, have been one of the biggest surprise packages of the season so far. They have returned unexpected three points against Wolves and Leicester, as well as draws with Spurs and Manchester City. As a result of their performances so far and the upturn in fixtures, West Ham assets are high on the priority list.
Antonio’s hopeful return to the West Ham line-up in Gameweek 10 will only bolster the Hammers’ appeal.
Fabianski is the highest-scoring goalkeeper in the game and his performances make not only him but the West Ham defenders great options moving forward, especially when you couple this with the attacking potential shown by Cresswell and, to a lesser extent, Coufal.
Picking a West Ham differential allows you to save much-needed money for the FPL budget but also hints at a huge potential upside. With Cresswell and Soucek in my team, I’m more than happy to be doubled up on the Hammers.
Every season it’s the differential picks for me that are the difference between an okay season and a great one. These differential players are the ones I show no loyalty to. When form and fixtures are on their side, I hold and play, week-in, week-out. Once that form ends and the purple patch is over, I have none of the concerns about moving them on as I do with the premium, highly owned players.
So far this season the Kyle Walker-Peters (£4.6m) and Alex McCarthy (£4.5m) double-up, Cresswell and Soucek pairing, Watkins and Che Adams (£5.9m) have all been great differentials. For most of these players I’ll continue to hold them but the pull to the differential City defenders, in particular Cancelo, is strong and so he will likely be my transfer in this week.
However, Antonio could be a game-changer on his return from injury if West Ham keep up the form they have already shown this season. A move to the Hammers frontman is definitely on my priority list over the next few weeks.
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